Garden City British School opened in Al Ain in September 2017. The school offers the British Early Years Foundation (EYFS) programme, Cambridge International Primary Curriculum and Cambridge Secondary curriculum..
The Story so Far
Garden City British School (GCBS) is a British curriculum school which opened in Al Ain in 2017. The school is led by Principal Jaana Wilkko. On first inspection by ADEK in February 2019, GCBS received a very creditable rating of Good - an achievement for a school that had only been in operation by one full academic year.
The school states in its Vision that "At Garden City British School we aspire to educate, inspire and nurture compassionate learners who will make a difference in the community as effective global citizens equipped with 21st Century skills." Its Mission is "to imbue international practices and inspire in our learners self-confidence, self-esteem, independence of thought and love for lifelong learning within a stimulating environment that strives for excellence."
Students (some 330 in 2019) are from the United Arab Emirates as well as from over 35 different countries worldwide, with the largest nationality groups being from the UAE at 49%, whilst a significant (and surprising) minority of 11% are from South Africa, followed by students from Jordan (5%) and Sudan (4%). Over 80% of students are non-English speakers when they enter the school.
The school's 35 teachers come from the United Kingdom, America, South Africa, India, the Philippines, Jordan, Egypt and Syria. Teachers are supported by a further 10 teaching assistants. A teacher:student ratio of 1:9 is very much on the low side and should allow plentiful individual attention and planning. Staff turnover, at 14%, whilst low compared with the average of 20-22% at international schools in the UAE, was on the high side for a school only in its second year, and included the Founding Principal. It is to be hoped that this will stabilise moving forward.
What about the curriculum?
Garden City British School offers the UK-based Cambridge Primary Curriculum in English, Maths and Science and follows the English National Curriculum for other subject areas including Art, Music, Design Technology, History and Geography and Computer Science. In accordance with the requirements of the Ministry of Education, all children learn Arabic and UAE Social Studies. In addition, Muslim children study Islamic Studies.
The curriculum is divided into three sections; Early Years (KG1), Primary (KG2 to Grade 5) and Secondary (Grades 6 to 8).
Students are assessed continuously and standardised assessments are used to evaluate each student’s attainment and progress.
In KG1, the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum guides the learning and teaching process. Teachers use a variety of play-based and structured activities striking a balance between both teacher-led and student-initiated play. Play underpins all development and learning for young children. Most children play spontaneously and it is through play that they develop intellectually, creatively, physically, socially and emotionally.
The Primary curriculum is divided into two stages: Key Stage 1 (KG2 to Grade 1) and Key Stage 2 (Grades 2 to 5). The core subjects in the Primary section are English, Mathematics, Science and ICT. Music, Art and Design, PE, French from Grades 2 -5 and the core Arabic subjects.
Children receive personalised learning in both ability-based or mixed ability classes. Gamification and active learning are ways by which GCBS teachers ensure that students are engaged in the learning process and their knowledge is secure. The school has an overall policy whereby it does not encourage or prescribe set textbooks. Topics are planned so that continuity and progression are smooth and aid development. Topics enable the identification of skills, concepts, knowledge and ideas from individual subjects and bring them together in a cohesive way.
Garden City British School will offer Grades 6 and 7 for the next academic year (2020-2021). Once students join the Secondary section (Grades 6-8) they are encouraged to be independent learners with the skills, knowledge and understanding required to face the challenging steps in their lives. This is underpinned by the school's positive ethos which aims to ensure that all students become confident, productive and caring members of the local, national and global community.
The school offers a wide range of Enrichment activities including Quran and Arabic Reading, Mystery Adventure, Art, Dance, French Speaking, Coding, Crafts, Chess, Origami, Gardening, Eco-club, School Newspaper and Healthy Cooking. Sports options include Swimming, Handball, Basketball and Zumba.
What about the facilities?
The school claims a state-of-the-art campus which includes indoor and outdoor play areas for the Early Years, a turfed Football pitch, swimming pool, a multipurpose hall, a library with a plethora of books and spacious classrooms.
What the inspectors say
Garden City British School was rated Good by the ADEK inspection team during the first school inspection which took place in February 2019. This is a considerable achievement for a new school and a good starting point for further development.
The inspection team noted that "The overall performance of the school is good. Students’ achievement is good in all subjects except in Arabic as a first language (AFL) where it is acceptable. Engaging teaching strategies ensure good progress and promote independent learning. Recent improvements have brought about positive changes such as active learning and support for students with special educational needs (SEN). The new principal’s inclusive and supportive ethos permeates the school."
The strengths of the school were found to be:
In terms of areas of improvement, GCBS should:
Although this may seem like a rather long list of actions, in many ways it is asking Garden City British School's team to do 'more of the same' - to continue to develop upon the good practice and achievements that exist in the school.
The next inspection will take place in the 2020-21 academic year, when the school is likely to have grown in terms of student numbers and will have opened its Secondary section. Certainly early indications suggest that this is a school well established on the right path.
If you would like to read the full ADEK inspection report, and we strongly recommend that you do so in order to be able to understand the reasons behind the ratings, you will find it here.
ADEK does not include direct feedback from parents in its reports. However, the school operates a Parents' Association (PAGCBS) whose members contribute regularly and very significantly to the life of the school community. They are extremely actively involved in the organization of Coffee mornings, International Day, Mothers’ Day, Teacher Appreciation Week, and Classroom Assistants’ Day, Movie Nights, Bake Sales and more. The school encourages parents to celebrate events together.
GCBS also encourages parents to stand for election to the Governing Body of the school where to Parent representatives participate together with the school leadership and owners' representative.
If you are a parent, teacher or student at Garden City British School and would like to share your opinions with potential members of your school community, please complete our Survey here.
What about fees?
Fees for the school start at AED 23,100 in KG and rise to AED 25,410 for Grade 5. Fees for Grades 6 and 7, which will open in September 2020 are set at AED 27,500.
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